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A scientist, doctor, ex-Nokia employee, and entrepreneur build an online marketplace for organic products

Sindhu Kashyap
30th Jun 2015
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While online shopping and e-commerce have touched most brands and organisations today, many believe that a large segment of the market is yet to be tapped; especially the unbranded small scale and cottage industry segment. Greenkurry was established in order to help these industries. It is an online marketplace for branded and unbranded organic products.

The idea behind the startup was to help the smaller business community enter online sales without technical knowledge or much expense. At the same time, it aims to provide natural and high quality products, which are usually not available in conventional stores, to customers. Another reason for starting up was to fulfill the need for quality unadulterated food products, and food products without preservatives.

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www.greenkurry.com

"We want to bring all small scale and cottage industries, and women entrepreneurs, to the e-commerce arena. Greenkurry is a truly online multi store that gives prominence and visibility to the independent stores," says Ajay Jose, Head of Operations, Greenkurry.

Initial days

The Co-founders, Babu Mohanan a former ISRO scientist, Shaji Thomas an ex-Nokia employee, and Dr. Shabheer Ali CEO of Myhodo, met at a startup community. The trio were looking to start an organization that could add value to society. Babu Mohanan was initially keen on automating the supply chain and reducing food wastage.

They had decided to use the ecommerce space to aid the supply chain and improve efficiency. However, as discussions progressed, the idea of Greenkurry as an online marketplace was formed. Ajay Jose, the Co-founder of Freshcave, a hyper-local online store that sells ready-to-cook vegetables, joined the company as Head of Operations. An initial capital of Rs 10 lakhs was raised, and this marked the start of Greenkurry. The company is currently operating from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

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Online marketplace for small and unbranded players

The constraints

"Greenkurry was initially launched as a national platform. But we soon adapted, and started focusing on hyper-local and local deliveries, as a B2C model, due to logistics constraints," adds Ajay. The team believes that delivery is one of the major hurdles to be crossed for operating online on a national level. However, in a hyper-local space, companies can look at a personal customer-vendor relationship.

Having been launched four months back, Greenkurry today has over 200 regular customers, half of which are B2B. "Even though the number of customers is small, the volume and repetition is higher as they are B2B," says Ajay. A large part, he adds, are NRIs, who place orders for their families and friends in India.

Market and growth

Greenkurry offers selective visibility, ensuring that if a store owner chooses hyper-local delivery only, he or she will get visibility only in those areas. Brands can also set their own delivery limits. This feature allows even small home entrepreneurs who love to cook to do business on the Greenkurry platform. "Thus, there are stores that are operational is particular cities/areas and those that operate nationwide," says Ajay.

According to the team their biggest USP is that they allow each store to retain their unique identity. Each store page has details about the store, contact information, and their brand identity. They look like their own online store.


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They also have a hybrid system, where they have local hubs which serve as delivery points. This mechanism helps people get their products directly from local hubs, so that they can keep their addresses private and also can manage time. Customers need not wait for the delivery guy; instead, they can collect their products from the nearby hub.

Opening a store on Greenkurry is free, as the idea is to be open to all entrepreneurs who want to start a business. "We don't want to limit entrepreneurs fearing the cost of starting a business. Our revenues come from sale commissions. We charge a commission for each sale that happens through our platform. This commission is not static and depends on each store. This is because some store owners cannot afford to pay 10 per cent as commission, while there are others who can give 50 per cent," says Ajay.

Growth plans

The team currently is focusing on a B2B model. They are focused on communities who want to purchase high-quality authentic products not available in some areas for resale, and improving their inventory. "We aim to become the top online player in the unbranded segment," adds Ajay.

Speaking about the challenges, Ajay says:

"The major challenge that we faced was reaching people, both in terms of store owners and customers. Building traction and marketing was a major challenge. Finding store owners and unique high-quality products was an added challenge which many other online stores might not have faced."

Finding the right suppliers and ensuring delivery was a very difficult task. The usual process flow is: they receive an order and then, the particular store owner ships the product to the customer. Ensuring the high quality of the products and bringing in professionalism to a decentralized system was a challenge initially.

"We are planning to extend our hybrid model network, build hubs and improve our delivery mechanism. That is what we are focusing on for near future. We also hope to add strategic hubs at corporate parks and people-dense areas, to improve the delivery line. A small Greenkurry hub space of 100sqft can deliver as many as 5000 products. Each product reaches the hub on demand. This allows small hubs to be as big as malls in vertical space," adds Ajay.

 The industry

E-commerce is expanding rapidly and is the future of business. Unbranded products report to 80 per cent of total e-commerce business; that happens in most of the industries. Many organisations today are looking at region-specific online marketplaces like Kashmiri Box and Giskaa.

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